Top Hollywood female executives pull back the curtain and reveal the women they look up to, how they pay it forward to future industry leaders and what they’re currently binge-watching.
Co-Head of Movies, Amazon Studios
Along with co-head of original movies Matt Newman, Julie Rapaport oversees Amazon Studio’s acquisitions and productions of original films for exclusive launch on Amazon Prime Video and theatrical release. She helps manage and further expand Amazon Studios’ range of original films from emerging filmmakers and established auteurs alike. Prior to joining Amazon Studios in 2015, she was senior VP of production and development at The Weinstein Company.
Who is a woman you look up to? I’ve always admired Sherry Lansing’s trailblazing leadership and taste as an executive, particularly how she navigated her time as studio head. I now feel incredibly lucky to work with Jennifer Salke, who is another strong, inspiring leader. She leads with passion and grace, while obsessing over how we can make the best films and series for our global audience.
How do you pay it forward? Mentoring and nurturing the next generation has always been important to me. As someone who didn’t grow up in the entertainment business, it’s very important to me to employ and meet new people who are also passionate about movies but may not have connections in the industry. Someone gave me my break, and I feel it’s my responsibility as a leader to help give people theirs. I’ve loved seeing my junior execs, assistants and interns grow, and now many of them have taught me a thing or two.
What are you currently binge-watching? I spend so much of my time working in scripted features that I’m finding a fun escape in bingeing unscripted shows. Right now, I’m loving Making the Cut.
Chair and CEO at WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group
Ann Sarnoff was the first woman who was named chair and CEO of Warner Bros. Since then, in August 2020, she has expanded her role and now sits as the chair and CEO of the overarching WarnerMedia, overseeing the Warner Bros. Pictures Group, HBO and HBO Max, the Warner Bros. Television Group, DC, TCM, TBS, TNT, consumer products, gaming and more. As the former COO of the WNBA and president of BBC Studios Americas, she pairs her 30 years of business and media experience for this top-ranking position.
Who is a woman you look up to? Gerry Laybourne has been a mentor and friend for over two decades and the first female leader I’ve had the pleasure of working with. What I love most about Gerry is that she’s been a remarkably successful executive while remaining true to who she is.
How do you pay it forward? I am standing on the shoulders of many heroic women who have come before me in the corporate world, and I make a point of mentoring young women to do whatever I can to help make them successful. I’m also very conscious of the fact that I wouldn’t be where I am without the financial aid that I received at Georgetown, so I am very proud to give back to the school by contributing resources and serving on the board of directors.
What are you currently binge-watching? I loved, loved, loved The White Lotus and just tore through the second season of Ted Lasso—the ultimate feel-good show.
VP of Documentary and Independent Films at Netflix
A 13-year Netflix veteran, Lisa Nishimura oversees the streamer’s documentaries and independent films. Under her leadership, Netflix documentary films and shorts have earned five Academy Awards and 13 Academy Award nominations. She is committed to showcasing the work of female documentarians and telling compelling stories.
Who is a woman you look up to? Jacinda Ardern
How do you pay it forward? Working to change the frequency that it is a zero-sum game, and that there can only be one woman, person of color or other underrepresented individual with a seat at the table, when in fact it’s about building a vastly bigger table for all of us.
What are you currently binge-watching? I’m late to the party and catching up on The White Lotus.
President, Streaming at Walt Disney Studios Motion Picture Production
In March 2020, Vanessa Morrison was named president of streaming; she had previously served as president of Fox Family since 2017 after a decade as president of 20th Century Fox Animation. She currently oversees projects for Disney+ and gets to help create original content and reimagine stories and characters from both Disney and 20th Century’s legendary archives.
Who is a woman that you look up to? My mother is my greatest inspiration. Throughout her life she has been an educator, an artist, an advocate for those who are underserved and underrepresented and the best role model that one could hope for.
How do you pay it forward? I strongly believe in the power of education to uplift and have tried to be a mentor to students as well as an ally to my alma mater U.C. Berkeley. I know firsthand the transformative power that the public schools and the U.C. system can provide.
What are you currently binge-watching? I am binge-watching The Falcon and the Winter Soldier for the second time with my son.
Photography by: JULIE RAPAPORT PHOTO BY SHARON SUH; ANN SARNOFF PHOTO BY ROBERT VOETS; LISA NISHIMURA PHOTO COURTESY OF NETFLIX; VANESSA MORRISON PHOTO COURTESY OF VANESSA MORRISON